Reading, MA — Town Meeting approved a $98.74 million Fiscal Year 2019 budget its the April 26 session. Three of the four sections of the town budget: shared costs, town government, and water, sewer and stormwater enterprise funds were presented to the members by Town Manager Robert LeLachuer. LeLachuer presented costs for each budget area, highlighting those which benefited from the $4.15 million Proposition 2 ½ override approved by voters at the April 3 local election. Increases from the override include $600,000 for health insurance benefits and $207,000 for use by the permanent building committee.
The budget adds a new position in town administration and also adds one in finance. Five positions will be added in the police department, including an additional Safety Resource Officer for the schools. Four new firefighters will also be hired as a result of the override. LeLachuer pointed out that the library will be able to once again offer Sunday hours. The Public Works Department will add an additional support staff person as well.
Water and sewer rates will remain unchanged in FY2019. This was able to be done for the year as a result of strong reserve fund balances. Each household will have an increased stormwater fee of $20 in FY2019.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Doherty presented the $44,860,275 school department budget to town meeting. Doherty shared that eleven full-time equivalents (FTE) teaching positions were able to be retained as a result of the successful override. Six teaching positions which have been cut in the last few years have been restored as well. The override budget also creates two curriculum coordinator positions, one kindergarten teacher, and one preschool teacher.
The new funding will allow for curriculum updates, teacher training, new computers, and retaining the current level of sports schedules. The elementary school chorus program has also been retained. The new funding allows the school department to keep consistent class sizes, retain the middle school model, allow increased course access for students at the Reading Memorial High School, and fully fund the Joshua Eaton Elementary School Improvement Plan.
No amendments were offered to any area of the budget, and the vote to approve the budget passed with 125 votes and 1 against.
Town Meeting opened with Select Board Acting Chair Barry Berman delivering the annual State of the Town Address. Berman welcomed the new members of Town Meeting as well congratulating all the individuals who were elected to the Library Board of Trustees, RMLD Board of Commissioners, School Committee, and the Select Board. He stated that despite two years of override talk, much has been accomplished. Highlighting accomplishments such as Senior Tax Relief, the Housing Production Plan, and downtown economic development, he charged the body with a call to volunteerism, collaboration, and civility in the coming year. The complete State of the Town address can be found HERE.
Other business Town Meeting approved was an amendment to the Library Replacement Materials Revolving Fund Bylaw, a request by the school department to enter into digital curriculum contracts of longer than three years, and, after some discussion, changes to section 6.0 of the zoning bylaw regarding building heights, front and side setbacks and site density in the town’s industrial district. The changes simplify the bylaw, placing requirements in one chart for easy reference instead of across dozens of pages of regulations. It is expected that the changes will allow for easier growth in the district. Town Meeting also removed two members from their roles for lack of attendance.
Town Meeting adjourned sine die at 10:25pm.